Interview Conducted 3 Months Before the U.S. Invasion Into Iraq - 2003
Transcript Released July 21, 2006

(He Made our City Work - What Would He Do For the World?)

DEBBIE METKE (Interviewer): Hello and welcome to our show “Mayor Zeidler on World Federation”. My name is Debbie Metke.

We are living in times where once again it’s increasingly obvious that nations are having a hard time getting along with each other, and many countries are trying to deal with the global problems by signing onto treaties, such as the Kyoto global warming treaty, the International Criminal Court, treaties against landmines, treaties against bioterrorism weapons, and nuclear disarmament treaties. However, some countries have decided to not cooperate and go their own way — our country is one of them.

September 11th was a wake-up call for many Americans as to how interrelated and dangerous the world is, and also a frightening look at how we are hated by many nations and peoples around the world. People are now asking the right questions and looking for truthful answers as to why this is.

Meanwhile, the rest of the world has known a lot of September 11th types of tragedies. Especially since World War II, there have been tens of millions of people who have been killed. In Rwanda alone (in 1994) 850,000 people died of machete attacks — that is almost 300 times the amount killed in the September 11th disaster. Also, according to UNICEF, 30,000 children a day die of famine and preventable diseases.

War, of course, is the most horrendous and troubling problem that humans get into, and some of the greatest thinkers there are have tried to find solutions for us. For many, the best solution is offered by the prospect of world federation and that is what we are going to talk about tonight.

Some of the most famous World Federalists are Albert Einstein, Walter Cronkite, Bertrand Russell, Norman Cousins, John Nash (of “Beautiful Mind” fame), and celebrities have included Martin Sheen (the “President” of The West Wing), Jean Stapleton, Lloyd Bridges, Jack Lemmon, Steve Allen, Dennis Weaver and Sir Peter Ustinov, who is the President of the International World Federalist Movement.

Meanwhile, in the United States, the U.S. President of the World Federalists is John B. Anderson, who ran as the Third Party candidate in the presidential election in 1980 against Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan.

But, here in Milwaukee we have our own celebrity, and I am happy to have him with us today. He is our own well-loved visionary thinker, former Mayor Frank P. Zeidler, Mayor from 1948–1960, and World Federation is an idea that he has supported for over 30 years.

We are honored to have you with us Mayor Zeidler.

MAYOR FRANK P. ZEIDLER: It’s a pleasure to be here.

METKE: Thank you. We are going to start out with the question — what is the idea of world federation?

ZEIDLER: The idea of world federation is built around the concept of what is called “federalism”. Federalism is an idea that [individual] states that formerly thought of themselves as absolutely sovereign are willing to yield some of their authority to a combination of other states. Thus, for example, in the United States each of the states would consider itself sovereign. What do I mean by sovereign? —That the state will do whatever it wants to do — make war, make peace, do anything it wants to do, assuming that it has power to do so. This was proven in the United States to have been a very bad idea, if it was carried out. In one case we had the Civil War. So the concept behind federalism is that states will federate with each other by yielding up some of the powers to a higher level of organization. In the United States the states have yielded up certain powers to the United States of America, which is a higher governmental entity. The concept behind world federalism is that states throughout the world would yield some of their concept of sovereignty to a higher level of governmental organization.

The idea of world federalism has existed for a long time in various ways, but it came to public attention largely in 1945 as a result of the second World War, where it was thought that if there was a federalist form of government, that war might not have occurred.

METKE: OK, and why would this be a good thing — to have a world federation or global governance — more than we have now? Right now we have nations hopefully cooperating through treaties, although, as I mentioned before, not all of them are. What would we benefit from having this system?

ZEIDLER: Well, that’s a rather difficult question to answer. For instance, it might not be a good thing to have a world federalist government if that government was dictatorial, so democracy would be best to avoid that. That is one of the problems that people who are interested in world federalism are engaged in, as to what kind of constitution or organization would create a situation in which very presently diverse countries, like China with over 1 billion people or India with over 1 billion people would have some representation and at the same time, smaller countries like East Timor, who recently joined the United Nations, would have power without transgressing the basic rights of each of those kinds of people. And that’s a problem that the World Federalists have dealt with.

Now in the United States we had that same problem and they came up with the result of the 2-house Congress. One house represents states, largely by senators — 2 senators no matter what the size of the state, but another house represents population. So, the World Federalists would face that type of a problem, but they would have to consider how to organize this on a still larger scale which represents economic interests — How would a powerful economic country like the United States deal with authority in respect to poorer countries? — so, there may have to be still another house of representatives according to economic status. Those are some of the problems that World Federalists are speaking about, but they are not deterred by this because they see that without the idea of world federalism, there may be an implacable condition in which great powers will seek to destroy each other.

METKE: OK, now some people say maybe it’s just as well that the United States, which is now the superpower, impose its way on the world. We think we’re the righteous nation (Zeidler smiles and nods) and why not follow our example. Do you see anything wrong with that?

ZEIDLER: There is a VERY scary development occurring in the United States today and several writers have written about it (such as in “Trends” magazine), that the current government of the United States believes itself so powerful that it can overrule any country in the world, and it has now said we will not allow anybody to challenge us with any kind of military might in the future. That in itself is kind of a foolish notion because even now Russia could knock the United States out with its nuclear weapons inside of 30 minutes. This is the theory of the United States and therefore if we suspect anybody is against us, we will attack them. That is the major idea that is behind the national administration’s designating certain countries as centers of evil.

Now the weakness with that idea is, I don’t think that forces would ever permit one single group of people (say, the people of Texas) to more or less control the United States government or to be absolute controllers of the world. They won’t stand for that and the only way you can deal with that is in some kind of a federalist government in which peoples of different origins, backgrounds and cultures come together and yield up certain powers in order to cooperate with others. That’s a major challenge that we’re facing in this time.

METKE: Uh huh. So do you think that governments that are socialist, democratic, dictatorial, parliamentary … do you see a way that they could all get along with each other in a federation, giving up sovereignty?

ZEIDLER: Each of those governments would have to be modified. A dictatorial government could conceivably be in a federalist system, but would not likely work very well inside of the system. Nevertheless, there are dictatorial governments now that are functioning within a certain degree inside of the United Nations.

The United Nations is not a federalist organization. It is simply an organization where people have agreed to sit down and talk to each other and sometimes come to some agreements on certain kinds of things. It is not bound particularly, so there are certain governments that are more or less dictatorial that are represented in it. However, a true world federalist government would probably have difficulty assuming into its membership a dictatorial government and, sometime, therefore, some form of democratic selection of the representatives of persons to the world federalist government would have to occur in each nation. Now, a nation could be capitalist, it could be socialist, it might even be a benign communist nation — what I mean is a nation in which there is communal organization without a dictatorship; in other words, the true word of “communism” means cooperation — it would be a cooperative society. So, there could be very diverse societies.

The biggest part of diversity would be cultural assimilation. Can different cultures in the world come together in some kind of a common concept where they could deal with what are definitely world problems? Now, there are world problems of a major nature, and those we could discuss a little later.

METKE: Ah ha. Some people say that the original 13 colonies in the United States had very diverse cultures also and even had wars with each other. Since we got ourselves to work into a successful federalist government in the United States, they look at that as a model for world federation.

ZEIDLER: Yeah, but the cultural diversity of the colonies was not all that great. There was some religious diversity, like Maryland being largely Catholic, but most of them came with English common law as the basis of organization and English parliamentary concepts as a basis of organization, so they had some common experiences which they used to build on and form a constitutional government. They did sign off on the Articles of Confederation, which were found not to be adequate to deal with all the problems that they needed, so they did form a major constitution — and there were states that were laggard about joining it. They were afraid that they’d lose sovereignty. Mostly what they meant by losing sovereignty was losing business opportunities and certain class groups losing power, but eventually they all came in and formed the constitution which has lasted fairly well since its formation in the 1780′s.

METKE: It certainly has … and there are other examples today of countries federating…

ZEIDLER: Oh yeah! … there are several federal governments. The Federal Republic of Germany is the best example of a recent federalized government and there they have a senate and a Blundestag senate. The people in the senate represent the Lender, which we would say are states, and the Blundestag represents population. And they have a president who is more or less a figure of dignity, but not the real authority, the real authority being the Chancellor.

Canada is a federal government and they have their differences — They have their major cultural differences between Quebec and the English-speaking areas, and Quebec would say they don’t want to any longer be part of the Canadian federation. That hasn’t occurred, but Canada is another major example of a federal government. And Brazil has something of a federal government — so major nations have a certain idea of a major federal government. The government of China with its many provinces is not in a regular sense considered a federal government because of the excessive domination of the Chinese Communist Party.

METKE: Could you tell us a little about the United Nations? I think most Americans think it’s a great big giant, very rich, controlling body.

ZEIDLER: I don’t think most Americans think that. [METKE: (smiling) OK?] Many Americans don’t like it. They feel that the United States has given up too much sovereignty to the United Nations and that the United Nations will have troops that come in and take over Utah or Montana, where there are movements to separate even from the United States. But the number of criticisms of the United Nations in the United States comes from various different sources.

One is, there is a feeling that the United States doesn’t want to support anything to do with abortion, so the United Nations has a population fund and the United States has pulled away from that. The United States also feels that the United Nations is weak — that is doesn’t have any military clout. It didn’t stop the assassinations and killing that went on in Rwanda, as you mentioned, and in Bosnia the U.N. pulled certain troops out in the middle of defending the Muslims, so there’s a criticism of the United Nations in the United States — that it isn’t militarily very strong.

Another major criticism of the United Nations is not spoken, but it is the idea that it is too heavily dominated in the General Assembly by poor nations who want to get the money of the United States and even of Russia and Great Britain (which are the wealthy nations), to support them. So, there is reluctance, therefore, in the present United States to support the United Nations. The interesting thing about that is that the United Nations was started principally by Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt as a means of preventing war in the future, and they worked at it very hard. They had to make certain compromises. The big powers didn’t want to give up their general idea that we can do what we want, so they created a Security Council in which 5 big powers have a veto. If the veto is exercised, the action doesn’t go through. And there are people in the United States who feel the veto power has been misused, first by Russia and then by the United States. So there are criticisms in the United Nations as not being a federalist government, but an interesting exercise in voluntary association.

METKE: Yes, and possibly a stepping-stone for the next stop.

ZEIDLER: It could conceivably be that, except the way it’s constructed. The five major powers, if they don’t want it, it won’t go that way. Through the Security Council they can veto any substantive action, which would change the character of the United Nations. And that raises one of the questions with federalism — How do you balance the interests of the poor countries, the small countries that are numerically small, against the rich countries and against the countries that have a large population.

METKE: Do you know of any stepping-stones or any plans that people have proposed to get to world federation?

ZEIDLER: Uh huh. There are many people who have worked on producing constitutions — constitutions that would take care of political differences and cultural differences and economic differences [METKE: So, world constitutions] and you can find many of these on the Internet.

My own concept of achieving world federalism is through a step of organizing regional federalism. For instance, in the Balkan area where you had this tremendous history of people slaughtering each other over at least 2,000 years of development — If you had a federalist government there, you might be able to resolve some of these problems. And there was such a federalist government there in the form of Yugoslavia, but it broke apart. It broke apart because of the ambitions of one group of people. However, if you had regional federalisms… Suppose that there was a regional federalism in the Middle East? That would be a VERY significant development in resolving the differences between the Palestinians, the Israelis, the Arabs and other people. That would be something. Supposing that you had a federalism in Southeast Asia?

Now, from these regional federalisms, it seems to me, it would be possible to construct a world federalist organization where the representatives to world federalism would come from these regional organizations. To some extent, we are moving to that in the North American continent. They are doing it first for economic reasons, via the North American Free Trade Agreement. There was a lot of resistance to that free trade agreement by the labor movement on the grounds that it would permit capitalists to move their industries to the places where there was the lowest wage. But there is another side effect to that - It starts to produce regional interaction that could lead ultimately to political formation of a regional federalism. And I think that federalists in the United States who might be interested in advancing the cause of federalism could think of federalism at least embracing the countries in North America into a federal union.

METKE: And we do have the European Union. That must be a good example.

ZEIDLER: Yeah, that’s a very good point you make there, that the European Union is beginning to develop a federalism of its own and it is a significant one, in my opinion. Nations that bitterly fought each other 90 years ago are now talking together. But there is always some separatism. In human nature there is always some idea that our culture and our clan and our people are better than others and that is what I would almost call “tribalism”. That’s a serious problem in Africa, the Balkan area, in India and Southern Asia. That’s one of the things that I’d like to see world federalism address is how you could deal with these people who want to be separatists and say “we are by ourselves and we are totally sovereign and nobody can touch us” because that’s a foolish notion today in a time when technology ties us all together the way it does.

METKE: Do you think there’d be a point where they would be forced into world federation? For instance, in the formation of the United States, Rhode Island was the last holdout. Rhode Island didn’t want to join the federation, but finally it just looked too good.

ZEIDLER: Yeah, the tiny Rhode Island - that’s almost like Milwaukee County - was going to be a state in itself. [Regarding being forced into world federation] … It may come that way. The unfortunate part is it may come that way through military action - through one group of people being so powerful that they declare, “OK, all the rest of you - you can have your little tribalisms but we run the show.” And to a certain extent you see that emerging in the United States and in the policies recently enunciated by the President. I don’t think natural forces developed in humankind will permit any single people or any single culture to dominate the rest of the world in a kind of world authority. Instead, the challenge will be how can you develop a federalism where people retain some authority of their own, but yield authority on the major issues.

METKE: Yes, pretty much what we have in the United States - The states have their own identity, but they give up enough to work together. Just think of the resources unlocked if we gave up this idea of every little country having its own army and pooled together!

ZEIDLER: Yeah. I should mention that in the United States there are certain forces that are working against UNITED STATES federalism, and one of the major forces is the Supreme Court, which is now beginning to rule against the federal government on many issues in behalf of the states. In other words, they are going back to a condition like the Articles of Confederation, and I think that’s bad. I think that’s a serious mistake.

What’s binding people together now is the fact that this technology we have, which allows people to travel great distances, to communicate over vast distances, and to strike at each other over vast distances, means that unless we find some way of living together through some kind of a federalist system, we are liable to engage in a war of extermination - not of simple nations, but of humankind.

METKE: Uh huh. Sometimes I think it’s going to take a tremendous tragedy - a nuclear war or whatever for people all of a sudden to want to rush into this type of thing.

ZEIDLER: Yeah, I hope not. You know, it took the Second World War to even make the development of the United Nations, which stopped a lot of wars. Some it didn’t. I mentioned its failure in Rwanda, in Bosnia … but, for instance, in the very critical war between Israel and Egypt it stepped in with its troops and in many places the UN peacekeepers stopped small wars. There haven’t been any major big wars except in Southeast Asia, where the UN didn’t have a role. The UN played a role in Korea in a war there, but basically, things would have been a lot worse. You may have had nuclear exchanges between the United States and Russia but for the fact that there was a UN at which they could come together and palaver and talk, even though it wasn’t federalist. But that would indicate that the idea of moving a step farther into a federal constitution might be advisable.

METKE: Yes, and, of course, besides the military problems, there are the ecological problems that we’re all going to have to start working together on.

ZEIDLER: Well, yeah, there are certain major problems. The industrial age that we are in, in which we use up the resources of the earth, is a major world problem. The exhaustion of the environment, water conditions, the population multiplication where you have many poor countries doubling their populations every 25 years, exhaustion of certain critical resources… And there is still another one — problems with criminal justice. How do you deal with people who have engaged in massacring millions of people, hundreds of thousands in some places?

METKE: Yes, but THERE we have a great step with the International Criminal Court, which the United States isn’t in.

ZEIDLER: The United States isn’t in it because it’s afraid that some of its public officials will eventually be charged under that for some things the United States has done. But those are some of the world problems. And suppose that the world faces a meteor from space — how would you deal with that? Is that dealt with by a single country or would it be dealt with by a pooling of information among scientists?

METKE: So we don’t have the problem like we do in THIS country where we have the FBI and the CIA not cooperating and pooling their information. [ZEIDLER: Uh huh] You’re saying other countries could be sharing their scientists.

ZEIDLER: If often frightens me to think of the number of people in the world who are planning weapons of mass destruction. How do you control that? How do you keep that from running away? One would hope that the concept of federalism would work.

Now, the experience of the United States, Canada and Germany on the practicality of federalism (and to some extent the experience of Brazil) should give people an idea of let’s work for a larger structure in which humans can talk to each other and deal with the problems that they see in the world today.

METKE: You know, with the rising of the Internet, people from all countries are finding it much more easy to talk to each other and share ideas [ZEIDLER: yeah] and then with the financial trading, there are a lot of layers over government where people are connecting and government isn’t even a part of it anymore.

ZEIDLER: We don’t know fully what the impact is going to be of the Internet. We are only beginning to see it now and it may have some bad impacts. Every technical development has bad aspects to it and of course one of the things that the federalist government could do could be to establish the legislation and the rules of the game so these bad aspects would be controlled and the good aspects would come forward. For instance, in the exhaustion of the water supply and the air, and control of weaponry — there are a lot of challenging problems and fortunately there are people that are thinking about it. [METKE: Yeah]

You might note that over a recent period of time, say of 1,000 years, that people began to think of these cooperation ideas between themselves. The Hollanders did it in the 16th an 17th centuries, there were some French thinkers that thought about it, and in the United States the colonists came up with an advance in government so that there may be some natural forces at work which will favor the development of something like world federalist society, as compared to a world in which everything is chaotic and in which the smallest elements of human tribalism are engaged in endless war with each other, as if they are all in a jungle.

METKE: Lately I wonder if it’s going to come sooner than we think. I’m thinking that there will come a need for a balance of power - especially Europe. They are seeing that the United States is SO powerful with our weaponry — especially with the events going on currently. I think they’re a little scared and shocked.

ZEIDLER: There is no question that the rest of the world is frightened by the declaration of the President of the United States that we’re going to do what we want if we think somebody is going to threaten us. There is no question about that, and they may seek how to reorganize themselves in order to protect themselves from what is a monster. The U.S. leaders now think we’ve got that power and we’re not going to let go of it (and if another nation has it, they wouldn’t let go of it), but they don’t realize that maybe natural forces will prevent them from exercising that power the way they think. You know, you get into a conflict with somebody else, you don’t know how he responds to that conflict and so I would advise the President of the United States “go slow” on this and look more to cooperating with other nations and other peoples, rather than talking about running the show.

I add a further thing because even while the President is talking about the power of the United States, his political allies are weakening the American federalist system. The American federalist system has this power because it’s a federalist system. But with the Supreme Court and a majority of the Republicans in the Congress are weakening the power of the federal government, so will the United States dominate the world when it’s own foundations are being shaken?

METKE: Hmm. Interesting point.

Well, do you have any last comments about world federation and maybe a vision of where you see our country going? Any fears? Any hopes especially?

ZEIDLER: One of the great tasks I think that World Federalists have is to awaken the interest of the American working class and American general people into the subject. Sometimes I think that, you know, Karl Marx used to say “religion is the opiate of the masses.” Ah, no — sports, football - that’s the opiate of the masses and how do you deal with all those thousands of people that crowd into sports games and media events and get them to start thinking more deeply about their future, the future of the society, and the future of their children, because if it doesn’t happen in their lifetime, their children are going to be the ones to come up against these enormous problems.

METKE: Any ideas on how to do it?

ZEIDLER: Well, especially through the work of volunteers. Somebody has to preach. “Talk makes the world go ‘round”, as one of my political leader friends used to say, Bill Hartsfield, the Mayor of Atlanta. And we’ve got talk. Try to educate people so that when the critical crisis comes with some of these things, there are people who are educated enough to say, Look, let’s look at the federalist system as a way of resolving some of these great world and global problems.

METKE: Wonderful.

Well, you’ve lived a long time, you’ve accumulated, I think, far more wisdom than most people that have ever lived, Mr. Zeidler.

ZEIDLER: You compliment me (smiles).

METKE: (Laughs) Oh no … (both laugh). Anyway, what is your idea of the successfully lived life?

ZEIDLER: Well, at one time I said that, you know, save the environment and fight for civil justice and so on, but you never know if you’re successful until you’re DEAD (laughs) and then you’ll know it. Then you can talk about a successful life. Life has many difficulties and one of the most important things is to have a sense of compassion for others, so that as they go through the obstructions of life you can be useful, (excitedly) and the basic idea behind world federalism is a compassion. Compassion for people, so they’re not, by forces of nature and other things, so into conflict with each other.

METKE: Yes. Well, thank you very much Mayor Zeidler, and I think you give us an idea of hope of something that will get us through the chaos that we do have on this planet. People have been putting a lot of thought into what we can do to make this a workable system. If you think about it, what, you have 190 countries in the world now?


METKE: 191! (smiling) Who’s the last one?

ZEIDLER: (Smiling) East Timor.

METKE: Oh! (Laughs) OK, excuse me. Well, wow! — We’re all doing our own thing. I think most of us see it’s not working out very well. For me, the success of the United States gives us some hope that we can work things out, and with the interconnectedness that is happening now in society, who knows what is going to happen, but it IS a vision that’s out there, and a lot of people have put thought into it. World constitutions, a basic structure of how we can make this work… The International Criminal Court is a tremendous step, even though the United States hasn’t cooperated. Maybe in time, like that little state of Rhode Island, we’ll give up and say, “Wait — This is a better system. We’ll join along with it.”

I wanted to offer something that has been said — “If you think you are already involved in enough causes, think about this - Peace, justice and sustainable prosperity, where they exist, are not accidents. They are the result of informed citizens and democratic institutions. Although many good proposals are now under consideration in the United Nations, they will only become a reality with strong citizen support.”

Sometimes we think our governments are just so overwhelming and we don’t think we have an input, but we can influence our government, and things do change — and our politicians do listen to us, contrary to all the jokes we hear out there, and a lot of the bad news, especially lately.

I truly believe we do have some very good answers to the mess that we have in this world. All it takes is the will, and we have to educate people and develop the will so that we can make this work so everybody on this planet has a hopeful life, a pursuit of happiness --- and 30,000 don’t have to die every day of treatable diseases and malnutrition.

If this sounds good to you, I ask that you call the World Federalist Movement, Citizens for Global Solutions and the United Nations Association, and you too could become one of the founders of hopefully a new and a better world. Many of us believe it is simply one of the best things you can do.

I wanted to end with a quote by Winston Churchill. He said, “Unless some effective supranational government can be set up and brought quickly into action, the prospects of peace and human progress are dark and doubtful.” Now, this is one quote - there are many quotes about global governance from political leaders, religious leaders, historians, visionaries, and now you too know about this type of a vision. So, we hope you join us and, Mayor Zeidler, thank you so much for joining us.

ZEIDLER: Thank you.

METKE: Thanks for sharing your wisdom.


Citizens for Global Solutions
World Federalist Movement Phone: 1- 212 599–1320
United Nations Association

Last edited by Godsil.   Page last modified on July 27, 2006

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